Category Archives: Croatia

Split to Zagreb to Belgrade, Serbia

11/17 – we got up early for the 8am train back to Zagreb. As soon as she heard us moving about, Pera brought down a tray of Turkish coffee and cookies to see us off. What a nice lady! We will miss her smile. If you’re ever in Split, you can’t do better than Apartment Pera. We found her on

When we were almost to Zagreb, we were informed that we would, once again, have to get off the train and get on a bus to get around a track problem. That’s the third time in a week! We hear that trains get less reliable from this point on, so this may be our new reality.

Got back to Zagreb in the late afternoon, where we are staying one night at the Palmer Hostel right near the train station. Very convenient, with a private room, and shared kitchen. We had a nice conversation with a retired Chinese couple who have been touring Europe for two months. They were excited that the U.S. and China had just extended visas for our respective countries to 10 years. Next year they plan to spend a nice long vacation touring the U.S.

This made us think about visas. We are swiftly running out of Europe, so I spent most of the evening looking into which countries in our near future require special visas, and how to get them. Turkey is first, and we secured that one online in about 10 minutes. The biggest problem looks like it’s going to be China, as you are supposed to apply from your home country. We couldn’t find any backpacker advice online that would help. Once we get to Istanbul, we will visit the Chinese Embassy, and see what alternatives are available to us.

11/18 – came downstairs for breakfast at the hostel, and someone had stolen our bananas! On closer inspection, Jim had put them on top of the fridge, which had a little sign that said it was a Free Food area. Oh well, some deserving backpacker was probably really happy to get some free bananas…

The train took us through some really pretty Croatian countryside, with the first sheep, pigs and horses we’ve seen in a while. IMG_4289.JPG




By 3pm we crossed into Serbia. Now we have been in three of the countries that used to be called Yugoslavia: Croatia, mostly Catholic, Bosnia-Herzegovina, mostly Muslim, and now Serbia, mostly Orthodox. We understand that Serbia shows the most scars from their war in the 1990s. Tomorrow we shall see.

Arrived in Belgrade on time (!), in the dark (streets not well lit) and cold! As in Brrrrrr! I’m going to need a hat! We had the street address for our apartment, but once we got there, it was in a big apartment building, and we could not see a way in. A young woman offered her assistance as we stood outside the door looking cold and confused. She called the phone number Jim had written down (our TMobile world plan doesn’t work in Serbia either), and told the landlord we were waiting outside. Our first Nice Person of Serbia! The landlord explained that he was illegally renting the apartment, which explained why there was no sign. Sheesh!

So now we are in our new cozy apartment, well fed with the omelette Jim fixed with supplies from the little market right down the street. We traded in our kuna for dinar, and we are ready to see Belgrade in the morning!


Medjugorje back to Split, Croatia

11/16 – well, there are things you can do, and things you can’t do, and it looks like traveling overland through Bosnia is one of the things we are just not going to do. Not impossible, but our options were limited and sounded unpleasant, so we opted to go back the way we came.

We got on the bus at Medjugorje for the four hour ride south to Split. Boarding with us was a man from Italy, who had filled up his entire rolling suitcase with big, dinner plate sized rocks taken from Apparition Hill, and had filled several plastic shopping bags with his displaced clothing. The bus driver told him the charge for stowing luggage was 8 kuna per bag, so he proceeded to unload the rocks one by one into the storage compartment, grunting with exertion, with the argument that if the rocks weren’t in a bag, he shouldn’t get charged! He went on to explain that he was bringing the rocks home as an inspiration to his poor, aged mother…. I think the driver gave up and let him stow the rocks. I would normally look aghast at someone helping themselves to parts of a shrine, but that hill won’t miss a few big rocks!

Unlike our ride north earlier in the week, the sun was shining and the clouds were awesome. Don’t you agree? These pix taken through the window of the moving bus: IMG_4227.JPG







So now we are back in our comfy apartment, and our lovely host Pera has left us more oranges and candies. It’s nice to be back home, if only for a day! Tomorrow, we take the train back to Zagreb.


Monday in Split – Marjan Hill

11/10 – at the edge of the Riva is a staircase to Marjan (marYAN) Hill, Park and Forest, originally a recreational are for Emperor Diocletian and his people.

As soon as we started to ascend, we left the tourists behind.image



About halfway up the hill is a small chapel of St. Nikola, and a Jewish Cemetery, both locked.image



A gorgeous day.

When nothing is done

From Jim…


We take the train from Zagreb to Split, Croatia.

In Split, we walk through the market toward the palace built by the Romam Emporor Diocletian for his retirement in 305 CE. It was actually a walled fortress which housed his military garrison. After he died, the fortress was eventually occupied by the populace and today it is filled with shops, restaurants, hotels, apartments, and the remains of what he had built.

In the 7th century, Diocletian’s mausoleum, within the palace, was modified and consecrated as the Cathedral of St. Domnius (St. Duje). The bell tower was added in 1100 CE.

The Cathedral of St. Duje is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world still in use in its original structure without near-complete renovation.

We pay an admission fee. I approach the altar.


A man kneels before the relics of St Duje, a bishop beheaded by Emperor Diocletian in 304 CE.

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Sunday in Split – the Riva

11/9 – here we are, back in summer! We left our quiet, pedestrian street, walked through the open-air market, and one block to the waterfront.image




The Split waterfront, called the Riva, has been compared to the Promenade de Anglais in Nice, and I can see why.

The town centers around Diocletian’s Palace, built in the year 300 by the Roman Emperor, as his vacation home. After the fall of Rome, the local people moved into the palace, and it is still in use today, filled with shops, restaurants, hotels, apartments and private homes.

In the palace is the Cathedral of St. Domnius, or St. Duje, the patron saint of Split. It was originally to be Diocletian’s Mausoleum. It is said to be the oldest cathedral in Christiandom, in that it has not been renovated or built over. St. Duje is interred in the sanctuary.





The carved wooden doors depict scenes from the life of Christ. There is a museum dedicated to the artwork on the doors.


Across from the sanctuary is the very small and plain Temple of Jupiter. Not sure who is actually buried here. A statue of John the Baptist hangs over the crypt.


The Cathedral is adorned by a tall tower, added circa 1200, that can be seen from any point in the city.image



As we are in the province of Dalmatia, I was pleased to see a local canine, sporting his spots:image

A beautiful town – so much to see!





Zagreb to Split, Croatia

11/8 – one train a day travels the 6 hours down From Zagreb to the southern shore of Croatia, and today we were on that train – the only passengers in the first class car, thanks to our EuRail pass. We are leaving autumn for one more glimpse of summer.

We saw additional signs of flooding, out our window.



An hour into the journey, our conductor informed us that we would be stopping and getting on a bus. Again?? I asked if it was due to a flood, and was told no, there was an accident. Did the train hit a car? Was everyone okay? No, an old man, and no. So we got another bus ride, and time to contemplate how quickly an ordinary day can turn into something else.

Back on the new train, we engaged our conductor in conversation. Her English is great, although she says her Italian is better. She has two teenaged daughters, one preparing for university, and one who would rather work for low wages. The economy is not good here, and really depends on the tourists.

We arrive in Split only 15 minutes late, although we had lost an hour due to the accident. It is very dark, and there are no street names on the corners. Jim is trying to follow his map, but in a short while, we know we are lost. A woman stops and looks at the address – it’s this way! Or maybe that way… She walks on.

Then a car pulls alongside, and a very American voice says, “You guys look lost. Do you speak English? Can I help?” He takes a look at the address, and recognizes it as the street where his in-laws live. He starts to direct us back the way we came, and then decides it would be easier to drive us there. Turns out he (a very tall man) went to Northwestern in Chicago on a basketball scholarship, and then moved back here with his wife and one year old daughter. We were only off by a block, and soon we are back on the street, thanking him profusely. Nice Person of Croatia!

We walked up our new (pedestrian only) street, looking for #63. When we found it, it looked dark and empty. We rang the bell, and a grandmotherly lady came down from the upper floor. “Oh, you’re here! I wasn’t expecting you til tomorrow!” Turns out we had made the online reservation for the wrong day. Sheesh! Our host Pera, assured us it was no problem, and offered us some schnapps. Another Nice Person of Croatia!

So here we are, a block from the beach. The weather is warm, and tomorrow we will see the city.

A Day in Zagreb

11/7 – it’s so nice to have a kitchen! Jim made us fried eggs and toast – very un-European – for breakfast, and two cups of coffee!

Today we strolled around Zagreb, admiring the stately, ornate buildings, the green parks, and the colors of autumn.

We visited the Zagreb Cathedral,partially under scaffolding for renovation. The inside was beautiful, but not lit.image





Then we climbed the many steps up to the Old Town, where we saw the famous St. Mark’s Churchimageimage

…and the Orthodox Church with its golden icons.image

The highlight of the afternoon was a visit to The Museum of Broken Relationships, which we had read about. The Museum contains little stories and tokens of relationships that people around the world have shared. Some were poignant.

Some were funny.image

And many were just too sad… There was a whole room of tokens of broken relationships with parents that I can’t even begin to describe. Very worthwhile visit if you ever get the chance ( the museum goes on tour).

We got to look down over the city as day turned to dusk.image


A wonderful day.

Venice to Zagreb, Croatia

11/6 – we left our lovely room in Venice in the early morning dark to catch the water bus back to the Santa Lucia train station. Luckily, it was low tide, so we did not have to wade! Online it said the boats ran every 20 minutes. What it did NOT say is that the first boat doesn’t start until 6:45. We waited for 40 minutes with lots of others who had trains to catch.

We got to the train station with 15 minutes to spare. There is a piano in the lobby, and a young Asian man sat down and played beautifully until our train arrived. So long, Venice, we will miss you!

Our first train of the day took us north, through little Italian towns we’ve never heard of, right up to the border. For the first time, we saw changing leaves, bare branches and fall colors. Look at the mist rolling off the mountain. How pretty!


I didn’t realize until we were on the train that we would have to get out at the Italian border and make our way somehow to the train station on the Slovenian side, three miles away. I started to panic, as I had not researched how to do this. Jim was very calm, reminding me that we were not the first travelers who had ever taken this train. Sure enough, he was right as usual. When we stepped out of the station there were three taxis waiting under a big sign that read TAXI TO NOVA GORICA STATION 10 EURO.

In 10 minutes, we were officially in Slovenia, with a half hour to wait for our next train. We ordered espresso – now called kava – at the little outdoor cafe at the station. The day was rainy and grey, which really helped us feel like we were in Eastern Europe. There was a strange building on the other side of the tracks that looked like it had been disheveled by a stiff wind:


Our next train would take us further north to Jesenice, Slovenia. As soon as we got on board, the conductor asked to look at our ticket. “No”, he said. “Problem fix”. We asked what the problem was, but he didn’t have enough English to explain. At the next stop, a young woman got on, and he told her the same thing. He asked if she spoke English, and asked her to explain the situation to us, which she did in excellent English.

It seems that there was a big storm earlier in the week that caused the river to flood, and it took out one of the rail overpasses. We were going to ride for several stops, then all get off the train onto a bus to go around the washout. As there was only 40 minutes to our next connection, we were being told we would not make our third train. The conductor said he would call and let the next train know that there were three people trying to make that connection, but he did not know if it would help.

Now, when we looked out the window, we could see that the river beside us, roiling and brown, had overrun its banks in several places. I realized that we had also seen flooding in the Italian mountain towns this morning. Look at the brown water in the foreground:


We started to work on Plan B, if we missed our third train, and saw that there was one more train that would get us to Croatia four hours late. An inconvenience, but not a disaster. We wondered how we would contact our host, who was waiting at our apartment with our key.

At the next station, a dozen of us and the conductor got off the train into a waiting bus. The bus inched along a narrow road right next to the river. Whenever we came to a highway crew, we would have to wait while they moved equipment to let us pass. Several times, we inched over flooded roads with water cascading down the mountainside. Excuse the rain on the windowpane. Don’t you think thIs would make an excellent scene in an exciting movie?



Two towns later, we were back on a new train. Although the bus was slow, we didn’t think we’d lost too much time. Then the train went into a tunnel, and we heard the now familiar sound of water rushing past – the tunnel was flooded! In pitch darkness, the train inched through the water as slowly as a train can go. We were in that tunnel for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only 15 minutes. That’s a long time…

The conductor came by one more time, to tell us (via our new friend Anja) that it was now assured that we would miss our connection. Oh well.

As the train pulled into Jesenice, the conductor came back. Hurry! Hurry!
Sure enough, they were holding the train for us! We scrambled out one door and right into the next, and the train pulled out before we even sat down. Cue the theme music – a victory! We sat in a first class compartment with Anja for the next hour, while she peppered us with questions about American politics and economics. She has learned much by watching American TV (with Slovenian subtitles), and gets her news from John Oliver. She was very current, and wanted to discuss the Republicans winning the Senate. She was also curious as to why Americans had so much land that didn’t grow anything but grass. Couldn’t they put in a few fruit trees? They don’t take much work! The hour flew by, and we thanked her for her help and her companionship. Nice person of Slovenia!

We got off the train in Zagreb, and followed our handwritten instructions from the station to our apartment, as our TMobile phone doesn’t work here without exorbitant roaming charges. Oh, how I miss my Google Maps! We got to the right street, but then couldn’t find the right building number. A young man stopped and asked in perfect English if we needed help, then Googled our address to show us the right building. Nice person of Croatia!

And now we are in Zagreb, in a two bedroom apartment, full kitchen and washing machine, that we are renting for less than what we paid for a single room anywhere in Italy or France. We went to the grocery on the corner, and bought tonight’s supper and tomorrow’s breakfast for less than five dollars total. After Nice and Venice, now we can get our budget back on track. And today’s death-defying adventure was free!